Monday, 27 October 2014

What Sweet Music They Make...

We're obviously all very excited about Goth at the BBC this week on BBC 4, but meantime, a few tunes from unusual places...

Emily Jones and The Rowan Amber Mill take us to a place we feel like we remember...the half remembered terrors of the seventies folk horror TV series The Book of the Lost...

You can download the album via iTunes, amazon, or in deluxe versions via Rowan Amber Mill Bandcamp.

The group are one of the bands to feature on the equally eerie and inspired new album Songs From The Black Meadow...

"The Black Meadow is a piece of heathland located on the North york moors, just next to the early warning system at RAF Flyingdales. It is a place steeped in folklore and mystery. This is a place where many people have gone missing, swallowed up in the dense mist. Black Meadow is renowned for strange phenomena such as ghostly villages, time slips and bizarre transformations. You could find yourself trapped there, surrounded by horsemen, meadow hags, bramble children or creatures made from the fog itself..."

The mix below features recordings from the artists who feature on the album, to give you a flavour of what to expect.

The track below, Never Come Home, was created as part of a poetry competition which was won by Catherine Baird, inspired by drowned villages such as Bothwellhaugh in the Clyde Valley. The poem was set to music by Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai and read by actress Shirley Henderson. You can read more about the project on the Scottish Book Trust blog.

Here's one of our own spoken word pieces with The Friends of the Gable...

And finally, to take the edge of all that darkness, here's a classic Beatles Halloween Cartoon...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Uncommon Tales - Inspirations

cover by Andy Lee
Our winter comic for this year is Uncommon Tales, in which Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes travels around various commonwealth countries, encountering creatures and monsters. The really horrible ones we left out of the 13 Commonwealth Tales book. As such, we're celebrating a grand tradition not only of storytelling, but of international monster hunting...

In our house, Scooby Doo is on near constant repeat. And it has been for over ten years now, each of the kids loving it in their own way, but especially loving the monsters. If you don't have kids under 8, or are not attempting to forlornly recapture your childhood, its unlikely you are watching Scooby Doo on a regular basis. But you should. From Owl Men, Ogopogo, Baba Yaga and Tikki monsters, via Yeti, alien abductions pirate ghosts and Goatsuckers, Scooby Doo and the gang have pretty much explored every popular folk legend there is. The programme moves from the early days of "science versus superstition" where all the bad guys turn out to be people in masks, through to the newer series, where the monsters are entirely real. A high watermark is the recent Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated series, a 52 episode arc of horror, conspiracy and self referential cleverness which riffs on everything from the Saw films and the Velvet Underground to Twin Peaks and Cthulhu...and is still suitable for children!

Needless to say, any worldwide monster hunt owes a tip of the hat to Scooby Doo. Here's a topical clip from Mystery Incorporated..

Another, much more direct inspiration was from Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing. In a storyline called "American Gothic", Moore has the titular Swamp Thing trudging around America encountering creatures and objects from American folklore and mythology, including Native American ghost shirts, boogeymen and South American cultists. It's a classic, and initially I wanted to call Sir Glen's adventures Commonwealth Gothic in the flimsy hope it would make it just as cool. But we went with Uncommon Tales instead. You can get copies of the American Gothic storyline online. The storyline's other claim to fame, is that it is the comic which introduced the British occultist John's hoping the new TV series, starting this week, features some of those stateside horrors...

Remember of course, you can still enjoy last years Tales of the Oak comic on scribd below, or if you are lucky enough to live in Greenock, by popping into the Dutch Gable House to be furnished with an actual real copy.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Uncommon Tales

Cover by Andy Lee

Rollicking along just in time for the darker months, comes Uncommon Tales, a terrifying selection of folk tales packed with unspeakable horrors from around the Commonwealth, featuring Sir Glen Douglas Rhodes. Meet Wendigo, Tokoloshe, Sharktopus, Anansi and more.

The comic was produced with the support of Celebrate funding, which also helped us to publish 13 Commonwealth Tales.

Uncommon Tales is available digitally via Scribd.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Galoshans Are Go!

Haunted Air
As ever at this time of year, we like to give you the opportunity to download our FREE Galoshans / Witch Trial plays for you to entertain and horrify family and friends. And remember, if you do perform the plays, why not record and share them. (yknow...within reason...)

You can hear more about Galoshans and other local traditions, at the Traditions In Place festival this weekend in the Beacon Arts Centre.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Traditions In Place Inverclyde

We're really pleased to help support and promote the Traditions In Place conference which is happening in the Beacon Arts Centre on Saturday 25th October...

A day where local groups and practitioners can come together, share knowledge and find out more about resources for music, dance and story, get some practical organisational support, and look at the prospects for building local networks and connect them up the existing national ones. An important strand might be to look at ways in which local resources – song, story, heritage, knowledge – could be used to develop a distinctive offer to visitors to the area (as opposed to a kind of generic, unrooted Scottish offer).

Aims of the day

· to make connections between local practitioners and organisations across the traditional arts

· to share information about local traditional arts resources

· to introduce the idea of a local trad arts network

· to introduce the idea of a local network taking on a project to make a piece of work linking cultural tourism with traditional arts

· to consider how local people might get involved in Museums and Galleries Scotland’s Living Culture database
Why not read more about Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland and the Once Upon A Place storytelling festival.

Hopefully see some of you along on the day.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Anansi Vs Brer Rabbit

Anansi the spider has cropped up repeatedly in the stories and tales we've explored during our Commonwealth Tales project. He's a classic example of the migration of stories, and in Anansi's case, stories that were originally native to Africa, crossed over into Caribbean and American culture as a direct result of the slave trade.

This is why Trickster Anansi shares many stories and wisdom with Brer Rabbit, so unsurprisingly, more than a few of us were reminded of the Disney film Song of the South - I remember very clearly this being one of the first films we watched in our enormous toploader video in the early eighties. I had a vague notion, that probably, the film was no longer available, like many old Disney films. What I did not realise was that its not available because it's banned. And it's banned because of the offensive way it presented a sort of idealised fictional Deep South in which plantation workers head off to "work" singing Zip A Dee Doodah. I'm pretty sure that went over my head when I was little, just like Mammy Two Shoes in Tom and Jerry did. But it doesn't make it okay. Worst bit of the Disney Song of the South story? Maybe that Uncle Remus actor James Baskett wasn't able to attend the premiere of the film because no hotel would put him up. Nice. Though if he'd actually managed to get over that hurdle, he'd likely have been made to sit at the back of the cinema anyway.

My favourite Uncle Remus Brer Rabbit story is The Laughing Place, We've retold the laughing place story in a slightly more sinister style for our Uncommon Tales comic, but here, unexpurgated is the version from Song of the South. We aren't sharing it because we think that banning Song of the South is "political correctness gone mad", because it isn't. However, my 8 year old not intentionally racist self, still has a soft spot for the song, enjoy contextually...